Women in the Mountains: Anneke Beerten

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What would you ask if you had only eight questions to run by one of the world's fastest mountain bikers? We caught up with Dutch enduro racer and Specialized team rider Anneke Beerten between Enduro World Series stops to ask her how she stays consistently at the top of field. Here's what she had to share.

#1: You have a really intense competitive schedule. What do you do to maintain your stoke during the long season?

Yes, our racing and traveling schedule is pretty full on. But I always make a season plan to make sure we get a good balance of racing, training, and recovery. It's important to keep the 'fun factor' high. For me, that means doing a lot of different kinds of riding: mountain biking, road biking, BMX and some dirt biking.

#2: How do you take care of yourself physically in season?

When I'm home, I'll have a massage every week. It helps me recover faster after training and racing. It also helps to prevent injuries.

Eight years ago, I looked for help and found that help in a nutritionist. I’m not going to lie, it opened my eyes. I decided to study sports nutrition myself. I did a 3-year study in basic food and sports nutrition. Now that I’ve passed those exams, I’m able to start my own practice to help other people with food and nutrition.

It helps me a lot. I know exactly what I need to recover well after training and racing. During the long Enduro rides, it is important to have your nutrition on point. If the tank is empty, you ain’t getting no where!

We all know the ins and outs when it comes to training or bike set-up, but do we also know how to fuel our body? We spend a lot of money on our material and have mechanics that help us out. We train like crazy and have coaches telling us what to do. But how many of us have a nutritionist? Or know exactly what we have to give the body after a hard session in the gym smashing weights, or when you come off the bike after a couple of hours riding in the heat? Enduro racers need to train like Rocky, sleep like a baby, and eat like a lion.

We all know the ins and outs when it comes to training or bike set-up, but do we also know how to fuel our body? We spend a lot of money on our material and have mechanics that help us out. We train like crazy and have coaches telling us what to do. But how many of us have a nutritionist? Or know exactly what we have to give the body after a hard session in the gym smashing weights, or when you come off the bike after a couple of hours riding in the heat? Enduro racers need to train like Rocky, sleep like a baby, and eat like a lion.

#3: How do you fuel before, during, and after an event? Can you explain how someone should fuel for an Enduro event?

Everybody's body is different and everybody has their own preferences. But I am going to give you a couple of do's and don't that will help you so you can fuel your body in the right way on a long enduro day!

Beerten hammers through the dual slalom course at Sea Otter. Specialized Racing/AnnekeBeerten.com photo.

Hydration: Did you know that by losing 4% of your hydration, your performance will decrease 20 to 30%? After losing over 5% of your body fluid, you will get that annoying headache. Water takes care of our temperature regulation, transports our blood, and drains our toxins. Make sure you drink a lot the day before your race, not just water but also some fruit juice with some fruit sugar and carbohydrates to build a little buffer. Make sure on race day to use a isotonic sport drink to get the right amount of carbs and salt into your body. When it is hot, you can also look at a sports drink with some extra magnesium to avoid cramps.

Gels and Energy bars: Sometimes I see riders at the start of an enduro race squeezing an energy gel into their mouth. I would NOT recommend doing this. There is so much sugar in a gel that the body gets an immediately sugar rush. Your blood sugar level will go through the roof, and soon after, you will experience a big rebound effect with less energy.

It's way better to start off with something easier to digest like a banana, a piece of cake, or a fruity energy bar. The energy gels are perfect when you are over halfway through your race, or before you just drop down into the last stage of the day. Keep eating during a long enduro day, even when you are not hungry. Your body needs energy to keep pushing those pedals. Make sure to pack a good variety of products in your backpack: bananas, cakes, energy bars, gels, and proteins. I like to take some nuts on a long day, and I personally like to eat a small candy bar towards the end of my race.

Recovery: It’s important to refuel your body right after training or racing. The best times is between 20 to 30 minutes after finishing. For an optimal recovery, it is good to combine carbs with protein. This way, the protein gets absorbed faster into your blood and muscles. The body can absorb a max of 30 grams of protein in 3 hours. Personally I like to make a protein shake with 30 grams of whey protein, and mix it with any kind of fruit juice (with exception of apple juice because it has too much sugar and a high risk of causing diarrhea).

Aerial view of the home stretch. Anneke likes a candy bar before her final stage for a nice sugar boost. Specialized Racing/AnnekeBeerten.com photo.

Also, refill your carbs by eating whole wheat pasta with veggies. Choose whole wheat; it contains vitamins and antioxidants. Last but not least, don't forget your fat cells. And I’m not referring to a bag of chips. You need good fatty foods like nuts, avocados, and olive oil.

#4: Your job is pretty high-consequence. How do you approach an intense course, and prepare to run it as fast as your can?

Our sport is mentally very hard and takes a lot of energy. It's not just like running or swimming. I'm constantly battling with my brain: "Can I hit that line? Can I make that jump? Don't crash. Don't break the bike."

On the top tube of my bike, I've written "FOCUS." This reminds me to focus every time before I start a descent. You can't mess around. You need to be focused and give it a 110%.

#5: Can you talk specifically how your background in BMX has helped you become so successful in enduro racing?

BMX-honed biking handling skills. Specialized Racing/AnnekeBeerten.com photo.

BMX is one the best cycling disciplines to start with. You get great bike handling skills, and it's easy to branch out to different kinds of disciplines after. It helped me a lot. Most of the skills I have I've learned from racing BMX.

#6: What kind of freeriding do you like to do? Can you talk about the kind of biking you do outside of competition? Do you have favorite places to ride?

A rare shot without a full-face helmet. Specialized Racing/AnnekeBeerten.com photo.

I like any kind of riding. As long as I am on two wheels, I'm pretty happy. In the off-season, I'm hooked on my dirtbike. I spend most of my time in California riding and training. My favorite place to ride would still be Whistler though. I love that place!

#7: You're seen as a sex symbol in cycling. Is that something that's an authentic part of who you are or just part of doing business as a female athlete?

Anneke Beerten blasting a techy little rock garden. Specialized Racing/AnnekeBeerten.com photo.

I don't really see myself as a sex symbol, but I don't mind showing people that we are not all tomboys. Our sport is extreme, and people always see us in riding gear and full-face helmets. So it is nice to show people that I'm just a normal girl that does her nails, likes to shop, and works her butt off to be fit!

I don't really see myself as a "sex symbol," but I don't mind showing people that we are not all "tomboys." Our sport is extreme, and people always see us in riding gear and full-face helmets. So it is nice to show people that I'm just a normal girl that does her nails, likes to shop, and works her butt off to be fit!

I admire other women like Lindsey Vonn or the Williams sisters. When I look at them, I see strong, powerful women who are [being] themselves.

#8: You've been a dominant force in Enduro for a long time. Is there a next step for you after competition?

I don't have any plans yet, I would love to compete for a view more years. I still love to race and travel around the globe with my bike!

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